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Story of Rabbi Chayim Soloveitchik (Reb Chayim Brisker) burying poor man

From Halakhic Man, by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, page 95 (last page of His World and His Life View):

The great Torah giants, the halakhic men, par excellence, were indeed champions of truth and justice. They glowed with a resplendent ethical beauty. Space does not permit me even to begin to speak, for example, about R Hayyim’s unrelenting efforts to realise the ideals of righteousness and equity. Let me merely cite one incident wherewith to conclude this section. Once two Jews died in Brisk on the same day. In the morning a poor shoemaker who had lived out his life in obscurity died, while about noontime a wealthy, prominent member of the community passed away. According to the Halakhah, in such a case the one who dies first must be buried first. However the members of the burial society, who had received a handsome sum from the heirs of the rich man, decided to attend to him first, despite the fact that he had died later, for who was there to plead the cause of the poor man? When R. Hayyim was informed about the incident, he sent a messenger of the court to warn the members of the burial society to desist from their disgraceful behaviour. The members of the burial society, however, refused to heed the directive of R. Hayyim and began to make the arrangements for the burial of the rich man. R. Hayyim then arose, took his walking stick, trudged over to the house of the deceased, and chased all the attendants outside. R. Hayyim prevailed – the poor man was buried before the rich man. R Hayyim’s enemies multiplied and increased.

Thus have halakhic men always acted, for their study and their deeds have blended together beautifully, truly beautifully.


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